If The RIAA Was Innovative: An Alternate Universe Timeline

from the an-alternate-history dept

1999: Realizing the inevitable, the RIAA convinces member labels to set up all-you-can eat buffets. All music available as DRM-free downloads, $5/mo. 100M of storage, additionally available for increased monthly fee. The RIAA uses superior marketing muscle to “drown out” competing “free” alternatives, insists people should only download from “legitimate” sources to ensure data integrity and security. It recommends the gradual reduction in the production, marketing, storage and sales of CDs, vinyl and tape, keeping only a small reserve capacity*.

2000: RIAA negotiates a small increase in financial support from labels’ substantial savings from physical media reductions to create the Online Strategy Group (OSG), hiring engineers, programmers, technologists, musicologists and a futurist or two. The OSG’s first suggestion is FoM, Future of Music, which the RIAA incorporates, initially to handle the growing subscription business.

2001: On OSG’s advice, the RIAA convinces member labels to cross-offer artists by genre in sites with fun names like, “soultology.com”, “hitsnmisses.com”, “netrockstar.com”, “eargasm.com”, etc. A marginally increased monthly fee ($1 more for each sub-site) gets download access and membership in forums, discounts on t-shirts, tickets, posters, etc. FoM takes over all revenue-generating ventures and negotiates equitable profit-sharing deals with the labels and reaches out to independent artists. FoM buys Creative and, with help from the OSG brain-trust, designs and sells a fantastically popular line of MP3 players.

2002: Capitalizing on the psychology of “sharers”, OSG introduces memberships that encourage people to find and upload obscure and out-of-print audio. Uploaders compete for discounted memberships, back-stage passes, artist access and the most important prizes: minor fame, street-cred and a custom avatar. The RIAA creates work-arounds for copyright issues removing limits on fan’s abilities to upload, modify and share work.

2003 – 2005: Recognizing the growth of social media, the OSG introduces groups and messaging. Higher-access users get expanded pages on OSG sites and are encouraged to rate and critique music. OSG makes available interaction with music journalists, holds contests for album & t-shirt art, gives prizes for mashups with highest votes by the communities. The OSG makes “Locker” space available, 1G free, $1/mo for each additional gigabyte. OSG introduces “Rip Me” – user puts a factory CD in the computer drive tray, and is given the option to rip/upload tracks or have recording company copies put in his/her locker. (Subsequent attempts to upload the same CD from another computer is allowed with a minimum new subscription)

2006 – 2010: FoM buys Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, RIM, Turntable.fm, Facebook and a controlling interest in Sirius. OSG helps FoM branch the Blackberry, creating the “Rockberry”, a consumer-oriented “mobile media sharing device”. OSG solicits auditions from all musicians everywhere, showcasing the best on YouTube. FoM makes record profits from tours, downloads, streams, hardware, music licensing and merchandise. Cary Sherman becomes fifth richest man in the US.

2011: *FoM introduces choice “retro” vinyl, CD and tape catalogue for hipsters worldwide. OSG and RIAA move into “palatial” FoM office campus in Los Angeles, work begins on 30-story FoM tower in Manhattan.

Cross-posted from botaday.com

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Companies: riaa

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Comments on “If The RIAA Was Innovative: An Alternate Universe Timeline”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 2012

We wouldn’t be in a global recession if the legacy players weren’t trying to fight the future. It’s my firm belief that we are witnessing the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the technological age. Apple is making record profits in the midst of a global recession because they had the foresight to see what was coming and adapted to it.

Pink floyd says:

my alternative timeline

1998 BEFORE shit breaks loose they go and get a torrent tracker set it up with donations that part goes to the label and part to the site

then the free NON DRM downloading begins because its all here first and in the best quality people flock to it…..

rest is history it ends up with hundreds of millions of people
and makes as much or more then lawsuits and peace and happiness reign.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where we could be now…*sigh*. Sad part: we’ll have to wait for the elderly individuals in the MAFIAA (and some politicians) to pass away before we can start being heard by the crusty politicians in Washington. This is a crude and rude way of saying it (forgive me for being blunt about it), but the MAFIAA will not stop hurting the public until its (driving) members no longer contribute. Those members won’t stop while they’re still alive, and they certainly won’t change their ways (be nice if they did, but I doubt it).

tracker1 (profile) says:

Re: I know what you mean...

Honestly, I was purchasing a few CDs a week when the original Napster was popular.. it was a great way to get new music, and sample an album before buying… maybe I was downloading more than I was buying.. now, I just don’t do much if any of it.. I’ll maybe buy 2CDs a year on average now.

Same thing with DRM and video games… used to be at least a game a month, now it’s been a few years, aside from the humble bundles.

sehlat (profile) says:

2012: How Much Music Is In Your Collection?

Why, technically, ALL of it.

And I’ve got a “go to sleep” channel over the net with relaxing new age stuff and a “wake up” channel that blasts me out of bed in the morning and an “at work” channel that keeps me going all day and a “lullaby” channel for the kids and a romance channel for an evening with my wife and a “bow-chicka-bow-bow” channel for …


(I can’t believe I wrote the above with a straight face.)

Jason says:

“1999:…It recommends the gradual reduction in the production, marketing, storage and sales of CDs, vinyl and tape, keeping only a small reserve capacity*.”

Woah, hold your horses. At this point most folks are still buying CDs, why not continue to capitalize on the existing production with a user-centered product and see how it goes? Specifically let the user custom mix their own lossless mix disc from their playlists with the same quality as the album CD to keep or share with a friend. Instead of strict DRM use a simple user registry to include special intro offers when the CD is gifted to a a new user. On a CD player, there’s no interruption. On the computer, just a simple friendly intro discount offer.

Later, when we’re fully post-CD, we’re still in the mix’n’share mindset (because we’re going to anyway) offer the same deal as a licensed-to-share digital playlist. Later still, turn it into an app.

DannyB (profile) says:

If the RIAA were innovative?

That’s like supposing if dinosaurs would start a space program to survive an extinction level asteroid. Doing something, anything, would require actual work. Doing nothing (which is more familiar to them), while getting their wholly owned government to take away our freedom is easier and a lot more fun.

Claire Ryan (user link) says:

Just want to make an addendum to all that… WORLDWIDE.

All the innovation you can pay for is partly wasted when you’re locking out millions of potential customers with regional restrictions.

Why settle for making {bunch o’ money x United States online population} when you could be, I dunno, using the GLOBAL COMMUNICATION NETWORK to make {bunch o’ money x the whole online world}?

Ed C. says:

The real RIAA

That could have happened, if the RIAA was run by forward-looking entrepreneurs who actually cared about artist, music and culture. But when you realize they’re run by backward-looking management trying to justify their fees to foolishly greedy labels, while avoiding any actual work, and lawyers looking for work to justify their fees to the management, the real timeline almost makes perfect sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

God, what a classic piece of crap.

Sorry, but you can stand today and look back, like a Monday morning Quarterback, and claim all of these things should have been obvious. They were not at the time at all. Even today, it’s not clear that any of this could work out, because other players would be there doing other things, and other pressures would exist.

Sorry, but the story reads like a ‘tardian fairy tale. Even Mike Masnick doesn’t have the balls to write something this stupid.

GreenPirate (profile) says:

Re: obvious

Yeah, the Wright brothers also should have never tried their stupid flying machine idea either. It was never obvious that it would fly. Why bother?

We are most fortunate to have individuals who are brave enough to try and fail until they get it right. If we had nothing but anonymous cowards in this world, we would still be living in caves.

Ophelia Millais says:

The RIAA is a PR, lobbying, and litigation organization funded and run by label executives and lawyers. A more realistic timeline would not cast it as a cadre of technology innovators or as some kind of centralized megalabel, but rather as a forum of market-responsive cheerleaders and venture capitalists?an organization with the power to embrace changing trends in how people consume music, and to invest in the externally-developed mix of both centralized and decentralized technology relating to distribution, consumption, and re-use of the labels’ IP assets.

Imagine if the labels had backed things like these as they came along: MP3.com’s locker/streaming tech; all the P2P innovations before and including BitTorrent; SHOUTcast and other streaming radio; deep-catalog vendors like iTunes/Amazon/etc.; crowdsourced metadata like CDDB/Gracenote, MusicBrainz, Discogs, etc.; content review, rating, filtering, and tastemaker outlets like DJ mixes and music blogs; online content aggregators and search engines; YouTube… It still astonishes me that they consider companies who develop and find markets for this tech the enemy. They will say a video-embedding content aggregator or the operator of a torrent tracker and forum are villains raking in an illegal fortune, yet it has always been within the power of the RIAA to make it legal and get a hefty cut of those profits with the mere stroke of a pen on a percentage-of-revenue-based licensing agreement.

The labels barely even have a grip on their own assets, and it was even worse in 1999. Someone from one of the major labels in 2006(!) asked me where they could find a complete discography of their releases, because they didn’t even know what all they had put out! You’d think they’d know their own catalog and have it all organized nicely internally, with every master tape all perfectly preserved, but they were never in the library business; they only kept what they believed there would be a market for, and they weren’t about to consider the possibility that technology was very quickly going to fuel interest in preserving everything they had ever done.

Anonymous Coward says:

1999: Realizing the inevitable, the RIAA convinces member labels to set up all-you-can eat buffets. All music available as DRM-free downloads, $5/mo. 100M of storage, additionally available for increased monthly fee.

Statements like this betray a fundamental lack of understanding in how creative businesses work.

How does a recording contract signed in 1983 play out in such a scenario? Do you think the labels had the foresight to include digital streaming rights in their contracts that far back? They did not.

That’s why a lot of this whining about the labels’ behavior at the turn of the century is naive. Even today, labels and legacy artists are still hashing out the particulars of streaming/digital distro vs. manufacturing. The labels did not have the right to distribute their catalogs by digital, non-physical means when Napster hit the scene. Had they been on board, there’s no guarantee they could have gotten all their artists to go along. Regardless, as every contract would need to be renegotiated, it would have still been a time-consuming process.

Why do you think it took the Beatles so long to turn up on iTunes? Are we to believe that they were just building up demand for over ten years?

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